Category: Natural chemicals
Introduction and description
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth-most-abundant element in the Earth's crust. In human biology, magnesium is the eleventh-most-abundant element by mass in the human body. Adult human bodies contain about 24 grams of magnesium, with 60% in the skeleton, 39% intracellular (20% in skeletal muscle), and 1% extracellular. Serum levels are typically 0.7–1.0 mmol/L or 1.8–2.4 mEq/L. Magnesium is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, with more absorbed when status is lower.
Purpose in the human body
Magnesium and potassium - Intracellular magnesium is "correlated with intracellular potassium" and because of the important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions, magnesium ions are essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of life. They are thus essential to all cells of all known living organisms. Over 300 enzymes require the presence of magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes utilizing or synthesizing ATP, or those that use other nucleotides to synthesize DNA and RNA [Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is used in cells as a coenzyme. It is often called the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy transfer]
In vegetation, magnesium is the metallic ion at the centre of chlorophyll, thus all plants containing chlorophyll contain magnesium.
Magnesium and calcium - Magnesium competes with calcium in the human body, in this way it actually keeps calcium in check. In effect, magnesium is a balancing metal to calcium.
Many western and progressively more eastern diets contain an overload of calcium – we tend to eat huge quantities of dairy products, sugar, and drink alcohol, sugary drinks and so on – all of which are sources of calcium. If we do not get enough magnesium to counterbalance all this calcium, then we may well suffer from build up of calcium deposits in the form of plaque in the circulatory system and kidney stones. It is not really cholesterol that is the problem – it is calcium.
Very often people who are overdosing on calcium show “Low serum magnesium levels”, for obvious reasons. They also exhibit “metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus type 2 and hypertension”. Worth bearing in mind I think.
In the rather typically daft way that some scientists think, the recommendation is to start taking magnesium supplements, where the real solution is to cut down the carbohydrates and sources of calcium. In the normal diet we get enough magnesium, but if we overload with calcium rich foods then in a sense we don't. The concept of magnesium deficiency is thus a rather vague one and difficult to define in this context.
Magnesium and the nervous system - The physical nervous system uses charge-carrying ions - sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-), and calcium (Ca2+). Again, if the calcium [or other minerals] get out of balance – for example are in excess, the nervous system starts to malfunction and you get twitching, heart arrhythmias, and muscle spasms – for example eclampsia – and other 'abnormal nerve excitation'. Eclampsia is an acute and life-threatening complication of pregnancy, characterized by the appearance of tonic–clonic seizures.
A whole host of other nervous system problems – headaches, menstrual pains, fibromyalgia – in effect any illness where the nervous system has gone into overload can be caused by an excess of one of the above minerals. And magnesium helps to correct the balance. But yet again, if you have all these problems, it is probably not a magnesium deficiency you are suffering from but a calcium or sodium or potassium overload – one incidentally that may not always be caused by diet, but can also be caused by pharmaceuticals.
Thus the concept of a Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium is meaningless. The key is actually have we got the right balance of calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium in our diet to make sure we function properly.
Illnesses and diseases of magnesium deficiency or overload
It is difficult to overdose on magnesium from normal dietary sources, because excess dietary magnesium is excreted in faeces, urine, and sweat. The section on Magnesium imbalance provides more details on causes of imbalance.
Dietary Sources of magnesium
Spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. All fresh green leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium as they contain chlorophyll. This link to the USDA nutrients database should give you a very complete list of all the foodstuffs containing magnesium.
In brief, however, some good natural sources of magnesium in foods include
- green vegetables [because of the abundance of chlorophyll molecules which contain the ion]
- nuts - especially peanuts, cashews, almonds, butternuts and hazelnuts, as well as chestnuts [european], brazil nuts, pinenuts, walnuts, macademia, pecans, pistachio
- seeds - for example pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, cottonseed, celery, flax, fennel, mustard, cumin, safflower, poppy, dill, caraway,
- Herbs - basil, coriander, mint, dill, sage, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme
- Onions, chives, leeks and garlic
- Peanut butter
- beans - of various sorts, adzuki, black, pinto, green, soybeans, lima and so on; as well as peas
- spices - cloves, cardamon, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, nutmeg, black pepper, anise
- red peppers
- marmite and vegemite
- red meat - lamb. pork and beef
- berries - such as blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, loganberries
- dairy products - including cheese - cheddar, cottage, mozarella, parmesan; and milk [and butter]
- chicken - particularly the dark meat
- fish and shellfish, - crab and lobster, mussels, oysters, bluefish, haddock, herring, salmon, trout, monkfish mackerel, cod and other fish
- dried fruit - for example currents
- grapes and red wine
- Fruit - for example kiwifruit, papayas, passion fruit, pears, grapefruit and other citrus fruits, figs, apricots
- baked potatoes - with the skin
plus others with slightly lesser quantities of magnesium.
Methodsee Eating for health and Healing yourself
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